ECONOMY

In Brief

No absolution for stock market irregularities; stricter penalties Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said a draft bill on stock market regulations would in no case include provisions absolving past criminal activities related to the bourse. He made the statement after the government amended a provision which the opposition claimed was aimed at protecting individuals or firms involved in irregularities during the 1999 boom. Christodoulakis said Greece would be the first EU country to incorporate the directive on stock market abuses into the new code. Maximum penalties are raised from 3 to 10 million euros, and to 50 million in case of a relapse. OTEnet cuts fast-speed broadband Internet rates as of today Internet service provider OTEnet, part of OTE Telecom, said yesterday fast-speed broadband Internet access fees will be cut by up to 30 percent as part of its bid to expand the Internet market. ADSL services for both residential and corporate users will be cheaper by 24-30 percent, effective today, OTEnet Chief Executive George Ioannidis told reporters. The company will also launch two ADSL services with volume-based pricing and introduce competitively priced entry level packages for small to medium-sized businesses. ADSL – asymmetric digital subscriber line – services allow faster downloading of data over traditional phone lines. OTEnet estimates it has about 3,500 ADSL users. «This will give a big push to Internet users in Greece and give Internet service providers a chance to provide new services,» said Ioannidis. Greece’s below-EU-average penetration rate, estimated at around 20 percent, has been hampered by its low computer penetration rate as well as high Internet access fees. «The price cuts are positive for OTEnet as these will make fast-speed Internet more accessible and boost the Internet penetration rate in Greece,» said analyst Dimitris Giannoulis at Alpha Finance. (Reuters) Israeli-Greek trade Israeli Interior Minister Avrohom Poraz today will present in Athens special awards to 22 Greek businessmen for their role in promoting bilateral trade. In 2002, Israel imported $135 million worth of Greek goods while its exports to Greece amounted to $158 million. A number of initiatives have been undertaken recently with a view to boosting bilateral exchanges. Bank workers Bank workers will press for a 10 percent pay raise in the forthcoming collective negotiations, their labor union (OTOE) said yesterday. The claim, it said, includes compensation for inflation and improvements in productivity, and convergence with pay in the rest of the EU. OTOE will also bring up again the issue of reducing weekly work hours from 37 to 35, seek protection measures for jobs from mergers and acquisitions and the intensification of inspections for violations of labor legislation. VAT Businesses and self-employed professionals keeping A and B category books will have to start submitting their 2003 value-added tax statements on February 25, according to the last digit of their tax registration number (AFM). The respective date for firms with C category books is May 10.